BASIL Butcher, in my youth, was a very popular sports figure, and cricket was truly “cricket, lovely cricket”. I remember his performances at Lords and other cricket stadiums all over the world, and we youths were affixed to our little radios, listening as the West Indian team, under Garfield Sobers, dished out victory after victory.
This period in the 1960s, we were very proud that four of our players were solid West Indies team players: Lance Gibbs (who I grew up next to on Laluni Street), Rohan Kanhai, Joe Solomon and Basil Butcher( all three from Port Mourant where the Jagans always resided). One should remember that Basil Butcher wore no helmet and other safety devices when he faced the likes of Freddie Truman, the premier English fast bowler who delivered balls at 87 mph – bumpers, swingers and everything else. One should remember that Butcher was a gentleman always, even when unfair decisions were made against him by umpires who did not have the modern technology now available.
On one occasion, he was dismissed even though it was clear that the ball had hit his shirt sleeve and not his bat. He said to a reporter, “the umpire is always right.”
One should remember that Basil Butcher achieved recognition at the upper echelons of worldwide cricket, but always kept his roots in Guyana, and always gave full meaning to what we as a nation could produce. One should remember that Basil Butcher was placed in the batting line-up for the West Indies team between Kanhai and Sobers, the two best batsmen on the team. It shows the high regard which the selectors placed in his abilities, mirroring the great Clive Walcott’s positive assessment of Butcher’s skills years before, when Walcott led the Guyana cricket team.
Editor, Mr. Clive Lloyd has called for a Hall of Fame to be established, and Basil Butcher to be inducted. This idea should be universally accepted and acted upon in a very timely manner. Our country should establish a cricket academy to discover and nourish all the potential Butchers in our youthful population, because cricket has changed, and our young citizens could compete both at home and at international levels. County cricket should be revitalised and energised to produce our new Basil Butchers, because he was a product of the keen county cricket which once dominated that sport.
Editor, Basil Butcher was a strong family man; a true patriot of Guyana, and a great ambassador and pioneer of Guyana and West Indian cricket. These attributes and achievements should give us all pause to remember such a great Guyanese sportsman, and to take a little time out of our busy lives to reflect on his career and contribution to all of us. All condolences to his family, who loved and respected him so much; all condolences to our Republic, as we have lost a true son of Guyana.
All condolences to the West Indian cricketing world for the loss of such a brilliant player during the “glory” days. God bless Basil Butcher, and keep him safe. His legacy is secure in our hearts, and our nation will always cherish his important journey to become a Guyanese legend.
Cheddi ‘Joey’ Jagan Jr.